I Hate Lactivists

I come from a long line of breastfeeding women. Near as I can tell, we’ve all been proud breastfeeders as far back as we go. When the mid-century craze to throw off breastfeeding in favor of science-perfected formula hit, my grandmother never bought into it. And when my mother gave birth to my sister in 1970, she fought off nurses to breastfeed. She remembers some of the hospital staff laughing at her as she insisted trying to get my sister to drink from her breast. Finally a kind nurse came to her aid and showed her how to do it and encouraged her by telling her she was doing the right thing.

When I got pregnant with my oldest, I didn’t bother taking a single birthing course. I figured that literally billions of women had gone before me and if they could do it, so could I. But I did take a breastfeeding course from the excellent Breastfeeding Center For Greater Washington. Why? Well, while that baby will come out one way or another, many of my friends struggled mightily with breastfeeding. I knew I wanted to feed my baby that way if at all possible, so I took the time and effort necessary to learn how to do it.

And do it I did. When my oldest was born, she was a breastfeeding champ. I nursed her exclusive to all other nutrition through six months and on through just over 13 months (at which point my next pregnancy interfered). And then I nursed that one for about the same amount of time. We struggled through the occasional mastitis or thrush, clogged ducts and the like.

I’m so thankful I was able to breastfeed my children and I hope that I’ll get to do it for subsequent children, too.

I’m a proud breast-feeding mama.

Having said that, I am so not into lactivism. Now, if we’re talking about the general promotion and support of breastfeeding, I’m fine with it. But what I can’t stand is the effort to get teams of lactating women to storm every library, store and other public space where someone might have had the audacity to ask a breastfeeding woman to cover herself a bit.

So whenever I get those emails about how I need to join a nurse-in to protest some horrible nursing injustice? Aw heck no. Not going to do it.

I’ve fed my children in public. The first time I ever did it outside of my house or my church — where everyone’s pretty comfortable with it — was at a baseball game with my 3-week-old baby. I tried to do it without missing a moment of the game but I wasn’t that coordinated yet. I ended up taking a seat in the First Aid office. But by the time my second came along, I was a world-class public breastfeeder. I even breastfed my baby once in a professional meeting where I was one of only two women. And to their credit, the dudes in attendance just acted like it was no big deal.

And every time I did it, I was able to keep covered and focus on my baby while also giving some thought to whether I was making other people uncomfortable or whether I was failing to be modest. A bit of a challenge at first, as I said, but with time and practice, no big deal at all.

Of all the things in the world that I have time to protest, I’m pretty sure that the occasional mean comment about breastfeeding is not going to rank. And if I were going to protest, whipping out my breast and placing my baby on it would not be the way I’d do it. I just don’t like the idea that mealtime would ever be primarily about protest and not nourishment. And what’s more, I think modesty is not too much to ask of mamas feeding their babies.

It’s awesome that God gave women breasts by which we can feed and nourish our children. And it’s fine if you’re one of those mothers who doesn’t worry about when and where she lets it fly. But come on, nobody should be surprised that not everyone shares your views on breast freedom. And sure, maybe these people need to be more understanding of the difficulties of lactation and breastfeeding, but we ladies of the breast can also be more understanding. As a wise man once said: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Image via Article Slash.

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